[Taxacom] OMG! DNA only descriptions (with one habitus photo)!

Stephen Thorpe stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz
Thu Aug 1 16:49:13 CDT 2019

>"Looks like fig. 1" does not actually provide any diagnosis of what supposedly distinguishes the species.
The glossary of the Code defines 'character' as 'Any attribute of organisms used for recognizing, differentiating, or classifying taxa'
"Looking like fig. 1" is certainly an attribute of organisms, which can be used for recognizing, etc. The fact that it may fail to provide a transparent or even useful diagnosis is irrelevant to Code compliance.
    On Thursday, 1 August 2019, 09:34:21 pm UTC, David Campbell via Taxacom <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:  
 "Looks like fig. 1" does not actually provide any diagnosis of what
supposedly distinguishes the species.  Similarly, an 1840's description
that I ran across that gives a detailed locality, but only describes it as
"this fine species", does not actually give a valid description. Saying
"this species has C instead of T at position 542" does give a purportedly
distinctive feature; similarly, a paper from 1834 with mostly nude names
that mentions the size of one species is considered the valid source of
that name (conveniently, only one species credibly assignable to that genus
reaches that size in that location).  The latter two are quite
unsatisfactory diagnoses from the viewpoint of systematics, but they do
purport to distinguish the species in a way that "look at the picture"
doesn't, and thus meet the letter of the law.  Of course, the paper in
question didn't just cite a single base pair difference; that's a
hypothetical exaggeration.

DNA can potentially be a good basis for naming species, but it takes
significant sample sizes to verify what level of difference in what gene
actually is distinctive in a particular group.

On Thu, Aug 1, 2019 at 4:49 PM Stephen Thorpe via Taxacom <
taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu> wrote:

>  The problem with that approach, as I have already indicated, is that
> something like just "Looks like fig.1" is a description/diagnosis in words.
> Yet it has no more meaning than fig. 1 itself, so is equivalent to
> description/diagnosis by illustration only, which is presumably what the
> "in words" requirement is intended to rule out!

Dr. David Campbell
Associate Professor, Geology
Department of Natural Sciences
Box 7270
Gardner-Webb University
Boiling Springs NC 28017
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